The Cardinals finished the homestand 1-4 after beating the Cubs yesterday. The win was a big one, as they did not want to take a 5 game losing streak to San Francisco. The bullpen once again had problems as Jason Motte failed to get the save in the 9th inning, but was saved by a walkoff hit by Yadier Molina in the bottom of the 9th. So, while it seems good the Cards won a one run game, the worry that I’ve touched on continues in these close game.
I think we as fans are going to have to live with the fact that Motte is going to throw 90% fastballs and never really have a good secondary pitch. He’s going to get crushed sometimes, and his current save rate of 75% might be as good as it gets. I thought he showed good control of his cutter late last year, but so far the pitch just isn’t there when he throws it, and he rarely does anyway.
One thing that might help is the Cards releasing J.C. Romero and bringing up Eduardo Sanchez, who was finally getting his control back at AAA Memphis. I think the message is clear with the new regime, and one that I agree with, in that they are not going to stick with veteran arms in the bullpen and hope they’ll put it together eventually. Instead, they’ll go with the youngsters, and if they struggle, at least they get the experience needed further down the road. I might be reading too much into it, but that’s how I see it.
I think Sanchez will find his way to the setup role in no time at all. His stuff is by far the best in the bullpen. The Cards may take a week or two to make sure his control is sound first.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Cardinals. Over the next 5 games, they face Madison Bumgarner (5-2, 2.80 ERA), Matt Cain (2-2, 2.28 ERA), Ted Lilly (5-0, 2.11 ERA), 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw (3-1, 2.22 ERA) and Chad Billingsley (2-3, 3.83 ERA). The Dodgers will be without Matt Kemp (on the DL), so the Cards catch a break with that.
The Cards offense might be in a bit of trouble. They’re averaging over 5.3 runs per game this year, which doesn’t seem sustainable. Carlos Beltran is suffering from a sore knee, Jon Jay is on the DL, and Lance Berkman is already having limitations placed on him after just coming off the DL and tweaking his calf again.
If something good can come from this road trip, hopefully it’s the confidence of Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright. San Fran is one the best pitcher’s parks out there, and the Giants offense is near the bottom of the NL. The Cards have scored 198 runs to lead the NL, while the Giants are 13th with 133.
Close games are the thing that is going to make or break the 2012 Cardinals. So far, the end result hasn’t been that good. I do think the bullpen still has a chance to be special, and we might see a few more close ones on this west coast swing. Sanchez might have come back just in time to put out a few fires.